BETHEL ACRES — Lora Blevins was shopping at a grocery store when a tornado ripped through her mobile home community in this small Pottawatomie County town.
Had she been in her mobile home when the deadly twister tore its way through the Steelman Estates mobile home park, she might have been injured or killed by the tree that crashed through her roof or hurt by the debris that pelted everything in the path of the lethal winds.
Blevins said she doesn't worry about that “close call” now that she has shelter from the storm.
As part of a $300,000 project, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief plans to install an estimated 120 underground concrete storm shelters for survivors of the May 2013 tornadoes, and Blevins is one of them.
“I feel relief and joy now that (tornado) season is getting close again,” she said. “There have been so many that have been close calls.”
The first of 17 storm shelters destined for Steelman Estates just west of Shawnee was installed Jan. 16, and a shelter will be installed on Blevins' property soon, said Sam Porter, director of the disaster relief group, an affiliate of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Porter said the disaster relief initiative was launched with mobile home residents in mind. He said survivors who received free refurbished mobile homes through another Oklahoma Baptist project after the May tornadoes are among those who will get the shelters.
The shelter project is happening at just the right time, Porter said.
“We're about five weeks away from tornado season, so this is the hot topic in Oklahoma,” he said.
Teri Perez-Kowalczyk, a Shawnee resident who has volunteered in the mobile home park since the May storms, called the shelter project “amazing.”
“After all they've been through out here, every little storm bothers them,” she said.
“They've been through so much and for them to know that there are storm shelters for everybody, it's great because not everybody had one before. It's got to take such a burden off them.”